JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (AFNS) --
For the first time since assuming his current position, the Air Force's top general officer visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Aug. 28 and 29 to address some of the pressing issues facing the Air Force, meet Airmen stationed here and get a first-hand look at the base's mission.
As part of a tour of Pacific-region bases, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, along with his wife, Betty, participated in a variety of events, to include a base all call, where Welsh spoke to Airmen and civilians.
"One of the cool things about visiting the wings is that I get to meet people I have never gotten to meet before," Welsh said.
He began the call by highlighting one of JB Elmendorf-Richardson's top civilians, while also taking the time to comment on furloughs.
"One of the most negative things to happen this year was furloughs," he said.
"To you and all the other civilians that have been furloughed this year, I am sorry.I apologize that this is what our nation came to and that we could not avoid it. The secretary and I, other service chiefs, and the secretary of Defense are doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again."
Welsh went on to discuss what he considers the three keys to success going forward for the Air Force -- common sense, communication and caring for each other.
"You are as important as everyone else in this business," Welsh said. "Some days you are more important. Make sure the people that work beside you and for you feel exactly the same way."
That is what this business is all about, he said.
"If everyone doesn't feel valued, respected, or don't feel that they are contributing to the extent that they are capable of, then we are not as good as we could be," Welsh explained. "You're the key to success. Don't ever forget about that. And with that value, comes the importance of pride in the Air Force and in future Airmen.
"It's all about who we are as an institution," he said. "About the things you stand for, about us being proud of each other. There are young folks that come in that want to grow up with that pride. It's also one of the things I'm worried about in the current environment. If we lose it, we lose you."
In addition to the all call, a tour of JB Elmendorf-Richardson and mission briefings, the general had lunch with a group of Airmen.
Mrs. Welsh and Athena Cody, the spouse of Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody, met with key spouses over lunch to discuss the opportunities and challenges for family care here at JB Elmendorf-Richardson. Their visit also included stops at the Alaska Fisher House and the Traumatic Brain Injury and Pediatric clinics in the base hospital.
During their two-week tour of Pacific installations, Welsh and Chief Cody, who was not able to make the trip to JB Elmendorf-Richardson, addressed key topics, such as the importance of the rebalance to the Pacific, sequestration, and sexual assault prevention and response. The also emphasized the importance of knowing each other.
"Every one of you has a story," Welsh said. "The stories are remarkable. They're unique, inspirational, sad, uplifting. They make you think, but everyone has got one."
"The simple truth is," Welsh continued, "if you don't know the story, then you can't lead the Airmen. Please know their story."
The better Airmen know each other the better care can be given to each other, he said.
"The better we take care of each other, the fewer problems we have and the better we can get the job done and the prouder our people," Welsh said. "That's the Air Force I want to be part of, but I need your help."
(Airman 1st Class Omari Bernard, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs, contributed to this story)